Diversity is much more than an Initiative

Danny PerezNativityMiguel Schools carefully consider how race, gender, religion and poverty influence a student’s identity.  Our school culture and instructional environment are informed by that identity and not distracted by it.  With such a mindset, diversity is core to who we are, not merely an initiative or an area of focus for the year.  I was fortunate to hear Richard Milner, author of Start Where You Are But Don’t Stay There, speak at the Nativity School of Worcester last week and was reminded of a blog by Danny Perez, Principal at St. Aloysius in Harlem and former Principal and GSP Director of Nativity Mission Center, that is reprinted below.  Danny, a graduate of Nativity as well, beautifully captured the spirituality of diversity in our schools and challenged us to be bold in how we educate and who we educate.

Tolerance is for traffic jams, not people.

Take a moment to think about the things in your life that you tolerate: your commute to work, heat waves, tax season. But every time I hear the word “tolerance” in relation to peers, beliefs, or opinions, I feel burdened and uncomfortable. The word does not evoke compassion or understanding. It creates a distance between me and the “other.” Tolerance, at its essence, is not inherently negative, as it is often the first step to improving tensions among people—tensions that may stem from class, religion, or ideology. But it is not enough.

This does not mean that we disregard our school’s Catholic identity. We are still a Catholic institution whose educators will discuss and instill moral values through Catholic readings, texts, and traditions. But embracing the diverse range of faiths in our school community will help us engage our students more sincerely. It also provides opportunities to demonstrate the key similarities among world religions as well as how traditions can vary among different faiths.

If we want our students to become successful, they must become 21st Century Learners. 21st Century learning includes skills like critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. If Catholic schools do not intentionally model this inquiry, how can we expect our students to be ready to effectively analyze, synthesize, collaborate, and create with people who are different?

Leave tolerance for menial things like mosquitoes, traffic jams, and flight delays. Let’s seek magis and embrace the opportunity to acknowledge each other as fellow human beings.

Previously posted on U.S. Catholic Magazine’s website on October 23, 2015. See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201510/tolerance-isnt-enough-30424#sthash.JFJOuKKv.dpuf

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